The bestselling duo of writer Olive Senior and artist Laura James (Anna Carries Water) team up again for Boonoonoonous Hair!, which follows a young girl as she learns to love her “snappy, nappy, wavy, crazy” ’do.
It’s time to plait Jamilla’s hair. But her comb has mysteriously disappeared. She tries to convince her mom the toy elephant has it. But in reality Jamilla’s hiding it because combing her hair out hurts too much. “It’s a pain,” she cries. Even when brushed, it still refuses to flow or swish. She’s had enough.
Jamilla questions why she can’t have good hair like the girls in her class: “They have hair that’s long and soft / and pretty. It glows as it flows without plaits without pins / long or short / it can swish as they wish.” However, with some encouragement from her mom, Jamilla begins to see the advantages to having hair “that can say something different every day of the week, every month of the year.” To prove it, Mom fashions seven new hairstyles. One day, Jamilla has puffs, the next day braids, the day after that a twist, and so on.
Jamaican-Canadian writer Senior uses playful rhymes to speak directly to young readers who may struggle with standing out from other kids their age. And she includes poignant moments as when Jamilla spots a self-portrait of Frida Kahlo, who also has plaits in her hair.
The artwork by James – who is of Antiguan heritage – is an explosion of colour and energy, with each one of her illustrations perfectly echoing the vibrancy of Jamilla’s ever-changing electric and kinetic hairstyles. James brilliantly reinforces her theme by making Jamilla’s class multicultural and including a spread of paintings by famous artists – all of whom have widely individual styles.
Together, author and illustrator show young readers that being different isn’t a bad thing. Not only does Jamilla learn to appreciate her hair, the girls in her class think it’s boonoonoonous, too.